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5UmmER/FHLL VtBl, I55UE 2 

Editorial Surgery 

Maxine, Lucius, Broony, L.M., C.W., 

and a host of others too numerous to 



Friends of the Toad 

Photogenetic Engineering 

Althea Roman 

Quotemaster General 

Helen Highwater 

Translations From Old Norse 

Sven Sv^istrom 

Research Staph? 

Dr. Z. "Yes I did" Rocks 

Junior President of Vice 

Lucius Cabins 

Specialist in Tai P'ing 

Gidget Digit 

National Insecurity Advisor 

Mel Testa 

Merciless Mirth 

Huey, Dewey & Louie 


H.H., C. Sheridan, Maxine, others 

Sinophilia & Bubbles 
Douglas Dinsdale 

Supplies, Discourtesy of 

Assorted offices throughout SF and 
the East Bay 

Processed World is published when- 
ever we have enough money and 
material, on a strictly not-for-profit 
basis. PW #1 cost $700 to produce, of 
which $400 was recovered through $1 
donations and $5 subscriptions... 
Friends and supporters donated the 
additional $300 for this issue #2. Look 
for Processed World #3 sometime in 

October or November— send sub- 
scriptions, donations, letters, £irticles, 
poems, photos, drawings, etc. We do 
not copyright the material in Pro- 
cessed World but ask for credit when 
something is borrowed, and would be 
filled with chagrin if someone took our 
magazine and made money off of it. 

Processed World / 
55 Sutter St. #829 
San Francisco, CA 94104 


Talking Heads p.3 

Letters p. 5 

The Rise of the 6-Month Worker p.8 

Career Opportunity: Gidget Goes Binary p. 15 

Raises, Rights, Respect... Alienation p. 23 

Office Workers' Olympics p. 26 


Processing Future Processors p.36 

Psalm Of The Anger p.40 

Band-Aids & Escapes Valves p. 41 

Prelude p. 45 

All of the articles in Processed World reflect the views of the author 
and not necessarily the views of other contributors or editors. 



In the introduction to Processed 
World #i, we expressed our intention 
to establish a network for discussion, 
information, and communication that 
would be relevant to the lives of 
people employed in offices. The 
favorable responses to our first issue 
confirmed our belief that many office 
workers feel the same dissatisfaction 
we experience in our own lives. While 
distributing our magazine on the 
sidewalks of downtown SF, we met 
new friends who are actively collabo- 
rating with us. Several people have 
also written to us with comments and 
criticism which are reprinted in the 
Letters section below. Thanks to 
donations and sales of the magazine, 
we were able to cover a significant 
part of the cost of producing issue #2. 




Here and there, tentatively and 
often almost invisibly, clerical wor- 
kers in the US are questioning the 
situation they share and are begin- 
ning some collective efforts to im- 
prove it. As with other kinds of 
workers, these efforts inevitably bring 
them into conflict with management. 
One of the ongoing purposes of 
Processed World is to report on such 
conflicts as well as on the conditions 
that produce them. While we are 
often severely critical of the groups, 
such as unions, that are currently 
trying to "organize'' office workers, 
it's not because we oppose banding 
together to fight for better conditions 
within the current set-up. On the 
contrary, we believe it is vitally 
necessary for office workers to oppose 
speed-ups, counter divisive hier- 

Your friendlv P.W. vendor in downtown S.F. 

archies of pay and responsibility, and 
win improved benefits such as child- 
care as well as better pay and working 
conditions. But we think reliance on 
the traditional methods and forms of 
organization can only lead to more 
crushing defeats like the one exper- 
ienced at Blue Shield, and in the long 
run, inhibits workers from finding ef- 
fective ways to organize and act 

One of the goals of PW is to bring 
together people seeking to develop 
new, imaginative strategy and tactics 
and to create a basis of support for 
future actions. Experience in self- 
organization and solidarity between 
office workers would increase our 
power to challenge the social relations 
that underlie not only our dissatis- 
faction on the job, but the prevailing 
misery and injustice throughout the 
world. The people at PW believe that 
the only permanent solution to our 
condition as office workers lies in a 
complete transformation of society. In 
this and forthcoming issues of PW, 
we hope to drticulate a vision of a 
society where people would no longer 
be compelled to waste their times and 
talents in exchange for a means of 

survival; where profits and hierarchy 
would no longer dominate our lives; 
where social decisions would be made 
by those affected by them; where 
people would not depend on money to 
get the things they need and enjoy— 
instead, products would be made and 
distributed according to need and 
desire, and the willingness of people 
to produce them. The millions of 
economic transactions which com- 
prise the bulk of office work would be 
unnecessary, and the dreary tasks 
now required of office workers would 
be eliminated. 

As an organized group, clerical 
workers posses immense power to 
bring about these changes. Because 
they control the flow of information 
and money that is crucial to the cir- 
culation of goods in this society, they 
also have the power to subvert the 
whole money economy. 




In this issue, we continue to explore 
various aspects of office work: '*The 

Rise of the 6-Month Worker^ ^ offers 
an analysis of the changing work- 
force, with its new values and 
employment patterns. * 'Career Op- 
portunities: Gidget Goes Binary '' is a 
fotonovela in which Gidget, seeking 
Big Bucks as a computer program- 
mer, loses her breakfast onto irre- 
placeable hard disks and conse- 
quently loses the job. "Prelude'' is a 
short story about the conflicts and 
choices faced by a woman climbing 
the career ladder. "Raises, Rights, 
Respect... Alienation'' and "Band- 
Aids & Escape Valves" analyze the 
limitations of two approaches to 
workplace reform: unionization and 
Quality of Work Life programs. ' 'Pro- 
cessing Future Processors ' ' likens the 
university to a white-collar factory 
using UCB as a case in point. We are 
also inaugurating a regular feature in 
this issue "Down Time", which 
includes accounts of recent events 
involving office workers. 

Hope you like it— Send comments, 
articles, money.... SUBSCRIBE I 

"Ever feel trapped by office monotonia?" 





Hi! Nice to know that somebody out 
there breathes! ! The disembodied voice of 
Mr. Brown s secretary can say more than 
the trite phrases we've all been taught to 
mouth to each other over the phone as we 
arrange other people's affairs and try to 
keep our annoyance at being disturbed 
from showing... 

Aside from inflated rhetoric (only $5.95 
a dozen at Peninsula Office Supply), we 
would like to offer our services to The 
Noble Cause. We have limited copying 
capabiUty with a high-resolution Minolta 
copier, if that will help. As far as our 
company's resources go, this office exists 
solely to promote and sell tax and business 
information to the Fat Cats to keep us in 
line. So, if you need detailed information 
on how far either side can legally go, feel 

free to come up and use our library. Please 
call us first, as although this office has an 
unconventional atmosphere, occasionally 
someone with marginal power over our 
existence wanders in. Also, you'd probab- 
ly prefer not to be hassled by any of our 

As for the intangibles, Anne is an artist 
and I am a graphicist of a sort and we love 
playing with words (members of the 
Verbal Vice Squad) , so if you-aU need any 
help with content, ideas, embellishment, 
etc., we are champing at the bit. The 
extent of our subversive activities so far 
has been to plan a parody of one of our 
periodical publications, with a possible 
audience of our Main Office (back East, of 
course) depending on how radical it gets, 
but we're itching to dig in to the elbows... 

This has be^n so inspiring! I don't know 
if I can muster the necessary saccharin to 
answer the phone... 

We are the Insurrection and the Light: 
Anne K. and Elizabeth B. 


Dear Folks, 

I enjoyed your first issue. Please sign 
me up for the entire program! 

Things are fairly grim here in the Big 
Apple. A lot of people want to get ahead. 
Fortunately for me, my forty hours is put 
in doing something real and concrete— I 
box and ship bicycle parts to cyclists. I 
work for a non-profit organization— no one 
gets rich off my labors anyway. The 
"Board" (very ominous— never met any 
of them) seems to believe that people can 
pay rent and eat off of their good will. 
Nevertheless, on a day-to-day basis things 
function well. One of my co-workers 
brings her 3-month-old to work. No one 
objects to the breast feeding and we all 
spend time with the baby— probably 
healthy all around. Little Mary Claire is 
weighed every Monday morning on the 
postage scale. 

I very much enjoyed "San Francisco 
1987". Were it only true. It's difficult to 
even imagine that here. Most people don't 
dream beyond Fortune smiling and get- 
ting a seat in the subway. 

Your film review is much like any other 
film review in a left-wing paper. I don't 
see the point in reviewing a regular 
Hollywood movie for ideological short- 
comings. Deal with the movie that's being 
reviewed. When "9 to 5" came out, I read 
the reviews and decided to wait until it 
came to the $2.00 movie house. I kind of 
enjoyed it, although it was a Friday night. 
No way could I have dealt with Bergman 
by then. 

As to Dolly Parton, I thought she was a 
great actress. She's probably not stupid, 
certainly not so stupid as to think the way 
she dresses is common. Nor is she 
oblivious to her endowments. Maybe she 
likes it. If some people go around in three 
piece suits all day and others are drag 
queens all day, why can't she look like 
what she wants? 

Here is the old fightsong of a imit in the 
San Francisco Dept. of Social Services 
(Food Stamps). We had a merry little 
party a few years back when the chief cook 
and paper pusher went out of town. It's 
written in our working language. If you 
don't understand you've got to find an old 

To the Long Vacation, 
Debbie K.— Brooklyn, N.Y. 

P.S. The postage, ink and paper is 
brought to you courtesy of my employer. 

The Eligibility Workers' Fight Song 
(to the tune of "On Winsocki") 

On one -fifties, on 150's 

Fight, Fight, Fight, Fight, Fight 

Run the L-M through computer 

G-Line, sure tonight 

(Fight, Fight, Fight) 

Keep on filing, keep on smiling 

Keep that white-out clean 

Eu'ri; client's glad to have us 

on the scene 

UIB cards, FDD cards,ATP cards too 

Rush to cut-off, Down to intake 

Gath'ring 0-0-2' s 

{Fight, Fight, Fight) 

We won 't smash you, 

We won 't catch i;ou 

It's been just a \;ear since we were 


{Fight, Fight) 

Sure, DoUy can dress any luay she wants. 
[By the way, what makes you think her 
wardrobe in 9-5 was her choice?] The point 
we were trying to make was that the way her 
appearance was used to captivate the 
audience contradicted the ostensible critique 
of sexual harassment made in the movie. 

Sure, ideological manipulation is to be 
expected from Hollywood movies. Does this 
mean we should ignore it? Besides, the 
progressive, feminist pretensions of this 
movie set it apart somewhat from the 
traditional Hollywood fare. We felt it was not 
accidental that the movie came out at the 
same time as a unionization drive is being 
launched to organize clericals. 

In spite of the fact that many people have 
told us they liked the movie, we stand by our 
criticisms and encourage people to take a 
deeper look at "entertainment." 

Anyway, thanks for writing — we love the 
Eligibility Workers' Fightsong. Say 'hi' to 
Mary Claire for us. 



To the Editor(s): 

All I can say upon reading your article of 
the SF takeover in 1987 is "Bravo"! It so 
happens that I work as a word processor 
(Wang) at B of A and liken myself unto 
that fellow in "One Flew Over the 
Cookoo's Nest" at the end of the movie 
when the big Indian has choked the 
remains of Jack Nicholson, smashed the 
window and escaped. Remember how for 
almost one minute he yells triumphantly 
and whoops and hollars— and then just as 
suddenly— he shuts up lest the authorities 
hear him. 

You aim for Utopia. I see that you're 
trying to raise the consciousness of 
thousands of business people and tycoons 
who refuse to have their consciousness 
raised. It will take many many lifetimes 
for this to happen. I would not be 
surprised if your little magazine folded 
after the third issue, but applaud you 
nonetheless. They occupied UC once; 
perhaps it's not impossible to occupy 
B A— think big thoughts! 

My situation here is— I've been in this 
section for four months. Before that I was 
never exposed to the Wang. I'm being 
paid $1208 for a supervisory position that 
should pay at least $1300. I was put on 
90-day probation last month by my 
immediate supervisor, who I thought I got 
along with but who apparently doesn't 
think I can cut the job when I know danm 

good and well I can. Things are better at 
this point, but I feel that he might even be 
under pressure to put me under pressure. 
He documents everything, undermines 
my work for me and talks down to me like 
a 4th grader. So I'm out looking once 

I marvel at the power this bastard has 
over me. That is, all he has to do is go to 
his inunediate supervisor, who is the Vice 
President of the Department, and tell him 
he doesn't think I'm doing the job— and 
the VP will go along with his decision! I 
have no protection whatsoever— no union, 
no secretaries or word processors associ- 
ation, NOTHING! Nothing but the Em- 
ployee Assistance Division with their 
"Let's Talk" in 6 steps, the final step 
being my case would be reviewed by the 
higher-ups (top management) who would 
undoubtedly decide in favor of the Vice 
President in charge. 

So— do you need a word processor? Or a 
writer? I'm good at words. Maybe (I've 
thought of this) I could write my 
experiences here as an article for you. 
Feel free to call (or write) me at work and 
if I'm not at my desk leave name and 
phone # with receptionist. And if she 
should ask you what it's in regard to, just 
say go fuck yourself. 

Best wishes, 
James D. 


S S M T 
3 12 3 


10 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 
1715 16 17 18 19 20 21 

4 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 


7^9 2^21 22 23 2 16 
26 27 28 29 30 Z 

12 4 
18 19 11 
^6 18 

25 26 27 28 29 30 31 

12 13 14 15 16 17 
19 20 21 22 23 24 

2l3 14 15 16 17 18 19 
^20 21 22 23 24 25 26 
27 28 29 30 31 

In my experience as a temporary 
worker in downtown San Francisco, I 
have met many yoimg people working 
in offices who have no pretensions 
about the importance of what they do. 
They seldom have any attachment to 
their work, though most are usually 
careful to do it right, and they don't 
expect to keep the job longer than 
from a few months to a couple of 

Most office workers are temporary, 
regardless of their official status, and 
feel they have something better to do 
with the time they are selling for a 
living. This something better to do is 
often, but certainly not always, some 
kind of creative expression— music, 
photography, dance, theater, etc. But 
there are not many commercial op- 
portunities for the aspiring photo- 
grapher, actress or writer who insists 
on pursuing his or her own desires 
and inclinations. 

There are many women and men 
who would like to quit working and 
spend time raising their children. But 
in this era of rampant inflation and 
falling real wages, one income is -not 
enough to support a "middle-class" 
standard of Uving. 

There are also countless students 
and liberal arts graduates (frustrated 
philosophers, language majors, etc.) 


who are forced into office work while 
they go to school or until they make a 
connection for a job as an editor, 
writer, academic, or until they deve- 
lop a marketable blue-collar skill. For 
most, though, this temporary inter- 
lude becomes a semi-permanent con- 
dition, especially when the "good 
position" in the imiversity or govern- 
ment turns out to be little more than 
glorified office work. There might be 
different companies or agencies, the 
bureaucratic procedures might vary 
with different jobs, but there always 
remains the endless stream of dis- 
connected numbers, reports, memos 
and invoices to be generated, stored, 
processed or revised. 

Meanwhile, a growing proportion 
of clerical workers seem to reject the 
notion of a career in the office and 
express this attitude by choosing the 
temporary road. This impression is 
borne out by statistics both locally and 

The S.F. Chronicle, in an Oct. 19, 
1980 special section on "Career 
Opportunities" characterized the 
thousands of temporary workers in 
the San Francisco area as mostly in 
their 20's and 30's, about Vs female 
and having an educational back- 
ground ranging from high school 
dropout to Ph.D. This includes only 


people who actually obtain work 
through agencies, but it can be 
assumed that there are thousands 
more who come and go from company 
to company without the "help" of an 

Short-term employment (2 years or 
less) is the norm in office work, 
especially in the lower level jobs. Fifty 
percent annual turnover among cleri- 
cal workers is common. At the 
recently struck Blue Shield offices in 
SF, for example, there was a near 
100% turnover in one department 
during the year preceding the strike. 

According to business Week (10/6/ 
80) 90% of all US companies are now 
regularly using temporary workers. 
For the parasitic body shops known as 
'temporary employment agencies' 
sales "have tripled to $2.5 billion 
since 1975 and could triple again in 

the next five years." About 60% of 
this temporary market consists of 
clerical jobs. 


For many office workers temporary 
agencies are offering benefits that are 
more in time with what they want 
than what unions offer. Above and 
beyond the economic benefits, which 
vary widely from agency to agency 
and imion contract to union contract, 
temporary agencies offer the possi- 
bility of employment when it's nec- 
essary and freely chosen unemploy- 
ment when there's adequate cash-on 
-hand without the stigma or penalties 
that come with not being willing to 
hold a job. 

Give me your* tired, your poor*; 
*Your huddled masses, yeariiing to be free. 
T spread my" loins C8i sit upon the floor. 
T raise your ^opes; 
^ut give you TDung aree. 


pnarEssED o^qrld 

Temporary employment also offers 
a certain freedom from the expecta- 
tions for sacrifice and dedication that 
permanent workers face. As Man- 
power, Inc.'s "Secretary of the Year" 
Edi Mohr said in the S.F. Chronicle 
(4/22/81) "...because I'm a temp- 
orary, Tm not stuck there like 
everyone else. So I have nothing to 
lose by having myself a good time." 

Capitalism has survived so long 
because it has a unique flexibility , a 
capacity to channel rebellious ener- 
gies and harness them to its own 
needs. Wave after wave of mass 
struggles for better pay, better work- 
ing conditions, more say in the 
ninning of society, have driven the 
system forward as the market forces 
beloved of the Reaganites could never 
have done alone. 

A classic case from the recent past 
is the history of the big industrial 
imions, like the UAW, the Steel 
Workers and the Rubber Workers. 

thousands of workers in turn fueled 
the booming consumer economy of 
the fifties and sixties. 

Temporary agencies play a similar 
role in relation to the young office 
worker of today. They allow indivi- 
duals who hate submitting to the 
unquestioned authority of bosses and 
managers, who despise selling their 
skills and time, to stay out of the 
work-world as much as possible. 

For business, on the other hand, 
temporary agencies offer the ability to 
get rid of an unsatisfactory or 
rebellious worker inmiediately— and 
without repercussions. Also, com- 
panies do not have to pay fringe 
benefits, payroll taxes, costs for 
personnel record keeping, adverti- 
sing, recruiting, screening or training 
of employees. 

By using temporary agencies com- 
panies can compensate for the prob- 
lems of widespread absenteeism. 
Bringing in temp workers also helps 

Most office workers feel they have 
something better to do with the time they 
are selling for a living. 

Formed in the huge and often violent 
strike movements of the 30's, these 
unions were rapidly transformed into 
appendages of the giant corporations 
their members worked for. In ex- 
change for the closed shop which 
guaranteed their existence as institu- 
tions, they set themselves to main- 
taining discipline and productivity, 
beginning with the no-strike pledges 
they signed at the onset of World War 
n. The yoimg workers who entered 
the factories after the war were 
increasingly indifferent to their jobs, 
preferring to concentrate on making 
their home lives as comfortable as 
possible. Consequently, the unions 
were able to trade away the control 
over production and working condi- 
tions, won during the struggles of the 
thirties, for better pay. This steady 
increase in real wages for hundreds of 


to cement and augment the hierarchy 
in the office. Lowest-level permanent 
workers are permitted to enjoy the 
responsibility and authority, as petty 
as this may be, of supervising the 
temps. In return the company may 
demand greater loyalty and commit- 
ment from permanents who are 
relieved from the most tedious and 
boring tasks: "One highly placed 
executive in a mammoth insurance 
company commented that 'tender 
minded' academics were 'downright 
naive' in their concern about worker 
turnover... It was his 'informed 
judgement' that clerical personnel are 
easily trained for their jobs, that if 
they stayed in larger numbers they 
would become wage problems— we'd 
have to keep raising them or end up 
fighting with them, they would form 
unions and who knows what the hell 

else." ♦ 


Competing for workers » Temps 
Inc., a small temporary agency doing 
about 4.5% of the business that 
industry giant Manpower, Inc. does, 
provides vacations, bonuses, a major 
medical plan, and relatively high 
wages ($6.59/hr. for typists to $10.75 

• Ivar Berg, Education and Jobs: The Great 
Training Robbery, New York, Praegcr, 1970, 
p. 152 

/hr. for word processors). "We 
developed a comprehensive fringe 
benefit program to give ourselves an 
identity as an employer and not just a 
body shop" explained Barry Wright, 
founder and president of Temps Inc. 
in Business Week (10/6/80). 

Not coincidentally. Temps Inc. and 
similar agencies make a big deal 
about how vital you are, the need for 
"professional" performance on the 
job and the "special" relationship 
between the agency and the temp- 

Supervisor Shredder! 

"The supervisor used 

to give us a hard 

time, always hanging 

over our shoulders 

telling us to 

hurri; up.'' 

i i 

Now, our problems 
are solved!'' 

Shredded Supervisors 
Dorx't Talk! 

Surety Shredding, Inc. 

The latest in pest extermination for the office. 



1960 '62 '64 
▲Indflx: 1977-100 

orgiry workers. They "respect" you a 
lot— the syrupy insincerity of their 
"friendship and concern" pervades 
every conversation. 

The ability of Temps Inc., Pat 
Franklin Associates and other "pro- 
gressive" agencies to offer comfor- 
table wages and conditions is entirely 
dependent on the current prosperity 
enjoyed by SF's financial district. In 
the 60 's France, experiencing very 
low unemployment rates and an 
expanding economy, had a similar 
boom of temporary agencies. (There 
are now approximately 80,000 temp- 
orary clerical workers in France, 
mostly in Paris.) Temporary work 
grew rapidly to compensate for in- 
creasing absenteeism and to do jobs 
that permanents wouldn't. Initiallly 
French temporary workers received 
pay that was equal to or better than 
many permanent workers. Since the 
world-wide economic crisis of 1974-75 
however, real wages have fallen for 
all French workers, and many temp- 

oraries now get mi n imum wage. As 
economic activity has stagnated and 
fewer permanent jobs have become 
available, more French workers have 
turned to temporary work. Once 
employed as temporaries, workers are 
findng themselves increasingly 
trapped: jobs are of shorter duration 
with more time between jobs, wages 
are low and the chances of breaking 
out of the low-income/ "underem- 
ployment" cycle are very poor. 

French capitalists, through the 
development of temporary agencies, 
have gained a low-wage workforce 
easily hired and fired as needed. They 
also have undercut the unionization of 
banks, insurance companies and gov- 
ernment offices. 


The pattern of development of the 
'temporary industry' in France is 
strikingly similar to that of the US 



temp market. In the US the prosperity 
of banks and insurance companies 
might sustain "reasonable" wage 
and employment conditions for a 
while longer. But there is every 
reason to doubt that this will last. 
Notwithstanding the ridiculous ex- 
pectations of "supply-side" econo- 
mists, the long post-WWn economic 
boom is clearly over. The re- 
emergence of a highly competitive 
world market ensures that the current 
stagnation will lead to recession and 
probably to global depression. 

In the meantime, though, capital- 
ists around the world are scrambling 
to restructure their national econo- 
mies for the battles ahead. "Reagan- 
omics," with its huge cuts in taxes 
and social services combined with 
equally huge increases in military 
spending, is designed to transfer 
income away from workers and the 
"unproductive" poor and make it 
available as fresh investment funds 
for the most highly-mechanized, 
"capital-intensive" sectors of US 
industry. These sectors— steel, auto, 
electrical , aerospace — are already 
being hurt badly by foreign competi- 
tion, especially from Japan and West 
Germany. As a result, they are now 

years. Ever "smarter" machines and 
the advent of the "executive work 
station" (putting the managers them- 
selves on terminals that will produce 
finished memos and documents) will 
erode the need for the bulk of clerical/ 
secretarial work. 

The increasing use of temporary 
office workers gives companies great- 
er flexibility in "letting people go" 
when productivity gains through au- 
tomation are realized. Companies 
don't have to worry about the 
severance pay and unemployment 
benefits they are obliged to provide 
for discharged permanent workers. 
While the new systems are first being 
implemented and there are still bugs 
to be worked out, the office temp 
market is booming and "decent" 
wages are available for some skills 
(e.g. word processing). But these 
conditions, alas, are as temporary as 
the jobs that currently provide them. 


The push to unionize office workers 
will not avert the falling real wages or 
the imposition of work restructuring, 
though it may slow them down a bit. 

Temporary office workers give companies 
greater flexibility in ' 'letting people go/ ' 

leading US business in a drive to cut 
costs and increase efficiency through 
automation, robotization and "job 

The effects of this drive on the 
industrial workforce can already be 
seen— massive layoffs, speedups, the 
negotiation of lyage cuts by the 
imions. But clerical workers will soon 
be feeling the pinch as well. 

In the office automation is advan- 
cing rapidly. There are more than 7 
million data terminals operating in 
the US and this figure is expected at 
least to quadruple in the next 5-10 

But unions are based on contractual 
bargains over a relatively long period 
of employment. During periods of 
expansion, they offer higher wages, 
more job security, seniority rights, 
contractually established production 
standards, etc. But for thousands of 
temps these things are meaningless 
since we are not planning to stay at 
any job very long, especially where 
there's a heavy workload with little 
time for bre^aks and conversation. 

Temporary workers, and office 
workers in general need to develop 
means of communication and associ- 





Total persons •mployed. 
ago 16 and ovar 






1004 iota 1074 1070 

Data: Bureau of Labor Stallstica 

ation outside of any particular work- 
place. This is essential since so few 
people stay at specific jobs or lo- 
cations for more than a couple of 
years at most (usually less). Above 
and beyond specific work exper- 
iences, we have in common our 
general relationship to Corporate 
Office Land, and it is based around 
this collective predicament that we 
should begin associating. 

It's time to take the typical "temp" 
attitude to work one step further. Tlie 
problem is not only that office work is 
boring and useless to individuals who 
do it and wasteful for the society as a 
whole. Wage labor itself wastes the 
hours and lives of hundreds of 
millions around the world. At the 
same time it robs us of the power to 
decide what work should really be 
done to meet our needs and desires. 
The society based on wage labor is 
what must be challenged. In it place 
we can create a society where work is 
done directly for social and individual 
needs emd where everyone can par- 
ticipate directly in determining and 
planning for these needs. Such a 
society would have no built-in ten- 
dencies, as the present one does, to 
constrict our intelligence and imagi- 
nation into the strait-jacket of "job" 
and "career." On the contrary, it 
would depend on the all-round dev- 

elopment of the brains and talents of 
every individual and their voluntary 
matching to the tasks at hand. The 
desire for variety and new experience, 
which is the positive motivation for so 
many modem workers to move rest- 
lessly from job to job, would become a 
basic principle of life. People could 
spend their time planting or harvest- 
ing one month, building houses the 
next, programming computers the 
one after, playing music every night 
—all without ever being farmers, 
construction workers, programmers 
or musicians. But the need for 
developing our brains and talents 
does not begin with the birth of this 
still-imaginary world. We can use the 
(relatively) free time that "temping" 
still affords us to create a subversive 
arsenal, to shatter the system's grip 
on our minds and those of our fellow 

Autonomous groups of workers, 
unbound by constitutions or laws, 
provide a starting point. If and when 
actions are taken and groups begin to 
link up with one another, goals, 
strategies, and tactics can be ex- 
plored. The pages of Processed World 
are open to further discussions and 
explorations of these questions. 

Lucius Cabins 



Gidget, currently employed at the Federal Shark Loan Bank, was all too familiar with the 
tedium and lower backache associated with unskilled clerical work. What Gidget didn't 
expect was the anxiety and overtime without pay that awaited her on her journey into. 









You're a real ri/le 



Liz fills Gidget in on how she too can attain a Better Lifel 

Let's see, $2,000 x 12 = $24,000 (taxes are 35% """"^ ^^g^^^^ *" °"" i°o 
those wigs on sale at Payless, and 60 crates of panty hose^at SIO each.^^^10 

cups of coffee... 



... Yes, ah that's 
one of the most 
versatile proces- 
sing systems 


fidget, this i^J^^^^^^^ 
grmmer Bob r^t r ^^"'°'' P^o- 

1980 T ' " ^°" ^''^ up the Zvln 

■i^w, 1 want to shnu; /-.. ^^'° 

simulated exchann. ^'"^^^^ ^^^ 

for the mihtary ^' ""' Programmed 



,oia^... mode... versatile... 

As J. Dull expostu- 
lates on the wonders 
of data control Laura 
remennbers the te- 
dium of undeclared 
variables, th? anx- 
iety of program de- 
mos, the terror and 
guilt of UNFIN- 



OH MY GOD! You just barfed on 30 
megabytes of irreplaceable 
data! We're sunk, finished! 



Realizing she would not be offered the job, Gidget makes a hasty retreat. 

Coming up next week! — 
Gidget loses control of her 
bowels at a job interview at 



Raises, Rights^mespect 

A %' 

On March 3, 1981 the Service 
Employees International Union 
(SEIU) and Working Women (WW) 
announced a joint national campaign 
to organize office workers into unions. 
WW's executive director Karen 
Nussbaum proclaimed a "new chap- 
ter in labor history" and predicted 
that *'the 80's will be for clerical 
workers what the 30 's were for 
industried workers." 

Working Women was created in 
1977 by the national affiUation of five 
local working women's groups (in- 
cluding SF's Women Organized for 
Employment) to advise then-Presi- 
dent Cgirter on the reorganization of 
the Equal Employment Opportunity 
Commission. Since that time they've 
grown to include 13 groups in dif- 
ferent cities, with over 10,000 mem- 

In several previous campaigns to 
organize clericals, WW has empha- 
sized the three R's— Raises, Rights 
and Respect. "Raises Not Roses" and 

"Scrooge of the Year" were themes 
used in publicity campaigns to dram- 
atize the low pay of office workers. 
The "Pettiest Office Procedure" 
campaign was conceived to draw at- 
tention to management's frequent use 
of office workers to perform demean- 
ing personal favors such as fetching 
coffee, doing errands, etc. 

At this year's National Secretaries 
Day in Embarcadero Plaza in SF, 
WOE held an "Office Workers' 
Olympics." One of the four events 
was a typing contest where secre- 
taries competed with local officials 
and celebrities in order to "let the 
world know that typing is a highly 
skilled trade!" This event— and the 
more general demand for respect— is 
a response to office workers' resent- 
ment against the impersonal way they 
are treated at work. People demand 
respect from others in order to respect 
themselves. They need to feel that 
their work is appreciated as a mean- 
ingful contribution to society. What 



these demands ignore is the basically 
wasteful and meaningless nature of 
office work. 

Most of us would enjoy freely 
contributing a share of our creative 
abilities to the well-being of others. 
But since our survival depends on 
selling these powers for a wage, many 
of us are forced to derive self-esteem 
from doing our job competently. No 
matter how appreciated or well-paid^ 
most office work is useful only to 
preserve the power of the corpor- 
ations and governments of the world. 
To seek positive reinforcement for 
one's wage-labor only validates a 
system whose very premise is the 
degradation of creative human ac- 
tivity—the exchange of skills, abiU- 
ties, affection and loyalty for money. 
Beyond this imique demand for 
respect, WW has declared goals 
similar to those of labor unions— 
higher pay, better working con- 
ditions, seniority rights and affirma- 
tion. Until the recent agreement with 
SEIU Working Women has kept 

unions at a distance, fearing clerical 
workers would not accept them. Even 
now, WW is calling the new national 
local "autonomous" and establishing 
separate offices in an attempt to 
distinguish the new organization from 
the image of unionism. 

The coalition of WW and SEIU is a 
marriage of mutual convenience. 
Working Women hopes the union's 
money, legal aid and organizing 
experience will help them overcome 
the strategic limitations they've en- 
coimtered. The December 1980 issue 
of Downtown Women's News (SF) 
exemplifies their limited leverage: 

"The single most powerful threat 
that we as WOE activists hold is our 
abiUty to publicly expose and ridicule 
unfair emplojrment practices." 

At most corporations will respond 
with mere cosmetic changes to the 2 
minute TV spots WW gets to decry 
this or that company's prejudicial 

SEIU, for its part, has a substantial 
advantage over other imions trying to 

haiidttM; is aintdy Aatrin 

1900 t92S 

▲ P«re«nt of total U.S. labor tore* 


1975 '80 

Data: Stanford University Institute for Communications Research 



National Secretaries ' Day Typing Test 

gain a foothold in the office labor 
market. With nearly half the US 
workforce now employed in "infor- 
mation handling" and shrinking 
membership rolls and dues revenues, 
the United Auto Workers, United 
Steel Workers, Amalgamated Cloth- 
ing and Textile Workers, United Food 
and Commercial Workers, and others 
are rushing to exploit lucrative op- 
portunities among a discontented 
white-collar working class. 

The prospect of a wave of union- 
ization and strikes among office 
workers is a matter of grave concern 
to many corporate £ind government 
leaders. In the January 1980 Info- 
systems magazine, attorney Robert P. 
Bigelow warns: 

"Management must recognize that 
information is a resource. . . without an 
organization-wide information system 
[read human and/or electronic spies], 
warning signs may go unnoticed... As 
offices become more and more de- 
pendent on word processing equip- 
ment and upon computerized infor- 
mation systems, a strike by data entry 
and text editing personnel becomes 
even more serious. An organization 
that depends on the currency of the 
information in its data banks will be 
hamstrung if those who make the 

entries go out on strike..." 

While most capitaUsts tend to resist 
unionization, some may be shrewd 
enough to take advantage of the role 
unions could play in disciplining and 
controlling the workforce. For exam- 
ple, the infamous productivity prob- 
lem in offices has been linked to 
office workers' abiUty to resist tight 
control of their workloads. According 
to the Wall Street Journal (11/25/80) 
"Methods Time Measurement As- 
sociation, a reseEu-ch group estimates 
that white-collar workers operate at 
only 45% of efficiency. A survey of 
400 firms shows losses of four hours 
per worker each week to 'time theft', 
or excessive tardiness, absence or 
breaktaking. " Office workers have 
developed their own informed me- 
thods of resisting the efficiency stan- 
dards estabUshed by management's 
productivity experts which, if en- 
forced, would turn clericals into 

When a union gets voted in to 
represent workers in an office, it 
becomes responsible to management 
for enforcing work rules established 
at the negotiating table. By its con- 

{Cont'd on Page 28) 



N fl) 
CD g 








— ^ 








c o 


-*, a) 
CD ;:; 





I— ^ 









CQ O) 

CD .-► 

^ CD 


O ^ CO 
IT "^ 0) 
(0 CO Cl 

•That's excellent Now let's try 
another idea* 

Is this... 

tractual obligation to ensure a full 
day's work for a full day's pay, unions 
wiU be compelled to help combat time 
theft and to control absenteeism. In 
the context of explicit rules and reg- 
ulations agreed to by management 
and the union, workers' ability to take 
their own initiatives in resisting pro- 
ductivity demands on the job would 
run up against the additional oppo- 
sition of their union. Once in place, 
workers may find that the union is just 
another bureaucracy that demands 
money and obedience. 

One of the greatest limitations of 
union strategy is the sepairation of 
workers into * 'bargaining units" or 
specific workplaces. Most office wor- 
kers, especially lower level clerical 
workers, don't see their work at any 
particular job or company as perma- 
nent. Attempts to unionize and nego- 
tiate contracts for individual work- 
places are bound to suffer under a 
constantly changing workforce. 

A case in point is the OPEIU local 
#3 organizing drive at Golden Gate 
University. In March 1980, OPEIU 
won the NLRB representation elec- 
tion, but Golden Gate University 
refused to bargain. Now the Univer- 
sity is planning to call for a new 
election which is expected to decertify 
the union— most of the originali 

activists have left GGU to do other 

Although these drawbacks to or- 
ganizing attempts are discouraging, 
remedning unorganized is certainly 
not a better alternative. Individuals 
facing the myriad of authorities and 
hierarchies on their own are easily 
picked off one by one. 

Successful attempts of clerical wor- 
kers to organize themselves will 
depend, in the first place, on spon- 
taneous and ongoing communication 
between large numbers of people in 
many different workplaces. Coordi- 
nated actions must be conceived and 
achieved; self-reUance and mutual aid 
developed; goals, strategies and tac- 
tics will have to be vigorously 
discussed by as many people as 
possible— rather than left up to the 
decisions of union or governmental 
leaders. New forms of allocating res- 
ponsibility must be established, forms 
that do not depend upon represen- 
tation, leaders and bureaucratic man- 
oeuvers. This massive, qualitative 
change will not be an overnight 
process (though it could happen 
sooner than one might think). It is 
towards this change that we should 

direct our efforts. 

Lucius Cabins 


"In several ways your \MDrk has improved..." 







Computer Workers Strike in England 

5,000 computer workers throughout 
England have been on strike since 
mid-March. They are striking on 
behalf of the entire 530,000 civil 
servants in England, all of whom are 
represented by the Council of Civil 
Servant Unions. The 525,000 non- 
striking civil servants are each paying 
about $2.10 a week so that the 5,000 
strikers can be paid 85% of their 
usual salary ^thout resorting to the 
unions' strike funds. 

The striking computer workers 
have made a shambles of England's 
revenue collections, interfered with 
defense operations, and brought rou- 
tine purchasing and some cash dis- 
bursements to a halt. The strike is 
blocking between 25% and 45% of 
the total tax revenues the British 
government gets from Value-Added 
tax and income tax. This is forcing the 
government to increase borrowing. 

2.5 times more this April than last 
(which in turn is damaging prime 
minister Thatcher's monetarist poli- 
cies) , in order to continue most of its 

To combat the strike the British 
government has asked big taxpayers 
to send their checks through commer- 
cial banks. Computer workers at the 
banks, however, have refused to 
handle those checks. Other computer 
owners, worried about the strength 
and solidarity of British computer 
workers, are contemplating proces- 
sing their information via satellite in 
countries where computer workers 
aren't unionized. 

Another strategy of computer own- 
ers is to undercut potential collective 
action by computer workers through 
increasing the use of decentralized 
minicomputers. An industry trade 
association leader in England, quoted 

**Sor¥y to wake you, 

sir, but there's been 

-M- a fire in the 
computer center.... 



in the Wall Street Journal, said "Big spotty and incomplete. The relation- 
companies are already turning down ship between the strikers, the unions. 

mainframe computers on industrial- 
relations grounds. I advise getting 
into small computers. An Apple® a 
day, I say, keeps the imion away." 

The strike has been largely ignored 
by the US press, so information is 

and management (the British govern- 
ment) is unknown to us— perhaps a 
British reader of Processed World will 
write something about it for us? 

Wall Street Journal 5/19/81. 


I iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiini 





Stanford Office Workers Reject Union 

On May 7, 1981, office workers at 
Stanford voted nearly 2 to 1 against 
joining the United Stanford Em- 
ployees (USE), an affiliate of the 
Service Employees International 
Union (SEIU). The imionization drive 
was launched in August, 1979, when 
the University refused to recognize 
the independent Office Staff Organ- 
izing Committee as a bargaining 
agent for Stanford office workers. As 
a result of this rebuff by the Stanford 
Administration, the organizers felt 
they had no other recourse but to turn 
to an established union. 

During the months of intensive 
campaigning that preceded the elec- 
tion, the Stanford administration is- 
sued a series of Election Bulletins 
warning office worker^ (often in a 
patronizing and condescending man- 
ner) about the authoritarianism of the 
union. They claimed that the good 
relations between office staff and 
management would be disrupted by 
the union's adversary role. Using 
endless misleading statistics they 
argued that clerical workers at Stan- 
ford enjoy relatively high wages, and 
that the University's own grievance 
procedure adequately responded to 
the needs of employees. In fact, as 
one worker who had attempted to use 
this recourse described in a letter to 
the Stanford Daily, a student news- 
paper, the University administration 
can (and does) easily dismiss grie- 
vances at any point in the process 
without legal repercussions. 

For its part, SEIU, which currently 
represents 1400 technicians and 
maintenance workers at Stanford, 
made exaggerated claims about the 
prospects of improving wages and 
working conditions through collective 
bargaining. Surveys published in the 
Stanford Daily indicated that, al- 
though a large percentage of workers 
were dissatisfied with their jobs 
(belying the image of harmonious 

worker/management relations publi- 
cized by the University) many were 
also skeptical about the extent to 
which a union would improve their 
overall job satisfaction. 

The apparent reluctance of most 
office workers at Stanford to stand up 
to management as an organized group 
with collective demands and common 
interest is a serious obstacle to any 
attempts to improve their conditions. 
On the other hand, the office workers 
were probably right in believing that 
the union wouldn't have been able to 
deliver on promises made during the 

Legal recognition for collective 
bargaining units is no guarantee that 
workers will get what they want. The 
recent settlement of imionized office 
workers at Blue Shield is a painful 
reminder of the constraints of the tra- 
ditional collective bargaining process. 

While affiliation with a union offers 
some advantages to organizers (pro- 
tection from management retaliation, 
monetary and legal assistance) it also 
imposes strict limitations on the form 
and nature of organized resistance. 
Union-approved strikes are the only 
legal means available to workers to 
assert their power, and this only 
during actual contract negotiations 
since most unions, including the 
SEIU, pledge not to strike for the 
duration of the contract. The only 
recourse for workers who want to 
protest management practices on the 
job is the grievance procedure, which 
is notorious for delays and overall 

(Sometimes even union approval 
doesn't guarantee legal sanction, e.g. 
SEIU local 715 was found in contempt 
of court on May 22, '81 for allowing 
the Santa Clara County special edu- 
cation teaching aides to continue their 
strike in spite of an injunction against 
it. The local president has been 
sentenced to 30 days in jail and the 



Q D a 

^o thoughts that we have about 

Whot might be (but isn't) get heard?? 







union has been fined $3,000. The 
sentence has been suspended for 90 
days so workers can show "good 
faith" by going back to work.) 

If they are to make any lasting and 
significant changes working people 
will have to find different ways of 
organizing, which rely less on the 
traditional legal institutions and union 
bureaucrats, and more on their own 
willingness and determination to act 
for themselves. The energy and time 
spent on seeking official recognition 
could be directed instead toward 
developing communications between 
workers. For example, during the 
months of the union campaign, the 
workers at Stanford aired their views 
and attitudes toward their jobs, and 
discussed problems and dissatisfac- 
tions with others in similar situations. 
Instead of directing this communica- 
tion and informal networking toward 

establishing a union (or now, making 
a second try to win a union election 
campaign using essentially the same 
arguments and methods) the dialogue 
begun in such cases could be ex- 
tended to address questions beyond 
the traditional wages and working 
conditions issues. The nature of the 
University in modem capitalism, and 
questions of qusditative changes in 
society could be raised. New tactics 
could be discussed and crystallized 
into direct, on-the-job actions. Links 
to dissatisfied students could be 
established and the separations be- 
tween workers, students, administra- 
tion and society-at-large could be 
confronted. The inmiediate risk of 
retaliation by management may be 
greater, but so are the chances of 
success. Maybe it's time to raise the 





Post-Mortem on the Blue Shield Strike 

In Processed World #1 we pub- 
lished an article about the OPEIU-led 
strike at SF's Blue Shield offices. In 
that article we criticized the union's 
tactics as ineffective and pre-emptive 
of the Blue Shield workers' power 
over data banks and telecommunica- 
tions hardware. We also challenged 
the union's analysis of the situation at 
Blue Shield and in the US today. The 
strike has since ended in a 
devastating defeat for the workers at 
Blue Shield: 

• Lost wages and benefits for the 
duration of the 19- week strike. 

• 448 Medicare claims processing 
jobs are being permanently relocated 
to other non-union Blue Shield offices . 

• Elimination of cost-of-living wage 
increases, replaced by the infamous 
"Blue Cros^ settlement" (agreed to 
in the midst of the strike by "sister" 
local 29 in the East Bay) which raises 
wages a mere 27% during the three- 
year contract. 

• No provisions for additional break- 

time for VDT operators, though the 
company agreed in a separate ' 'letter 
of imder standing" to install glare 

• Of the original 1,100 strikers (since 
the strike's end the imion is saying 
only 950 people were on strike) 350 
returned to work before the strike's 
end. Combining the large defection 
with the relocation of 448 jobs, this 
will leave loyal union members in 
possession of only about 150-200 jobs 
at Blue Shield. Less than 300 strikers 
actually voted on the new contract 
(275 for, 22 against). 

Judging from the speech given on 
National Secretaries' Day, organizers 
at OPEIU are oblivious to these 
consequences for Blue Shield work- 
ers. In a brief conversation with 
OPEIU representative Tonie Jones 
after her NSD speech, she claimed 
that, although they didn't get what 
they demanded, the Blue Shield 
workers did gain experience in organ- 
izing and working together. Certainly 

"We have won 
great gains... we 
have shattered 
the myth that of- 
fice workers are 
We have shatter- 
ed the myth that 

office workers 
won't fight and 

strike for their 


roaCESSED a70(\LD 

/ / 


it is true that successful collective 
actions by clerical workers will call for 
a good deal of organization and 
preparation. During the first weeks 
the strike probably did encourage 
people to air their dissatisfactions and 
helped create a sense of community 
and support among otherwise isolated 
workers. But for an experience to be 
worthwhile, problems have to be 
analyzed and errors understood so 

that they can be avoided or at least 
foreseen in the next round. 

The basic orientation and legal 
function of the union must be 
analyzed in detail. The OPEIU 
militants who refuse to recognize 
that they were soundly beaten and 
need to reconsider their approach are 
either plain dumb, or think the 
rest of us are. 




Labor Theory of Value? 

Time is the one thing in which we 
are all equal. There are the same 
number of hours in the day, the 
same number of minutes in the 
hour, and the same number of 
seconds in the minute for you just as 
for me. We are not all equal in 
ability to produce, of course; but 
many men learn to achieve maxi- 
mum production, while others never 
seem to realize that they have the 
same number of hours in their day to 
work and to improve their 

The time has come when you 
should recognize that it is the duty 
of every worker to give a full day's 
work for a full day's pay. Too many 
who are on the job are job holders 
rather thart workers. They are 
frequently willing to give a full 
hour's work for a full day's pay. 
That isn't the way a business 


operates if it expects to survive. All 
employers have a right to expect 
each worker to produce more than 
he is paid to produce. That "more" 
constitutes the profit requisite for 
business survival. 

The dictionary is the only place 
where success comes before work. 
The material things we want just 
can't come to us out of thin air; they 
must be produced by somebody, and 
that means somebody must work. 
The quickest way to achieve success 
is to work for it— the surest way to 
get the material things we want is to 
work for them. If work isn't a thing 
of magic, it produces results more 
excellent than magic ever produces. 
To realize all we are capable of 
achieving, we must learn to love to 

Typing Test — Temps Inc., SF 


18 Sdn J^ranri$co (£l|rotiicle 

Wed., May 20, 1981 

Bomb Threats 

In N.Y. Lengthen 

Lunch Breaks 

New York 

Thousands of office employees 
were forced lo leave their buildings 
yesterday as police, plagued by 
more than 200 bomb threats since a 
weekend explosion at Kennedy 
International Airport, stepped up 
their search for explosive devices 
in the New York metropolitan area, 

A New York Police Depart- 
ment spokesman said that although 
no bombs were found yesterday, 

the threats, many of Ihem appar- 
ently made to lengthen lunch 
breaks, continued to pour into 
police headquarters. 

"The number of calls yesterday 
and the number today goes up 
around noon, and if people leave 
early, we seem to get calls from 
neighboring buildings," the spokes- 

fiammerecf out 


Associated Press writer 

LOS ANGELES — For those who have always wanted to beat a 
copying machine into rubble with a sledgehammer but never have, 
here's what happens: 

First, a side panel comes off. Then, dials and small pieces 
skitter out from the side until a front panel comes off. With more 
blows, interior parts resembling oil filters and air hoses come into 
view. After a while, tiny puffs of powdered ink billow out from inside 
and eventually the machine slumps forward slightly and falls over. 

At least that's how one aged copier of unknown origin met its 
end Friday afternoon in the parking lot of a Wilshire Boulevard 
office building. 




With the campus disturbances of 
the sixties a rapidly fading memory, 
American universities are once again 
trying to project the image of peaceful 
islands of learning, ruled by the ideals 
of Truth and Intellectual Freedom, 
timelessly isolated from the social 
conflicts that surroimd them. But 
beneath the glossy image of academic 
advertising lies the white-collar factory 
As the student rebels of Berkeley's 
"Free Speech Movement" pointed 
out, the campus is in reality a vast 
assembly plant where thousands toil 
to produce trained workers for the 
office of the future. 


Large universities employ widely 
diverse groups of workers— food ser- 
vice employees, custodians, mach- 
inists, sanitation workers, lab tech- 
nicians, electricians, medical staff, 
guards, and so on. The largest single 
group of university workers is the 
clerical staff, maintaining essential 
services such as financial aid, libra- 
ries and records. This staff processes 
and controls the massive network of 
information and documentation with- 
out which no campus could function. 

For various reasons university cle- 
rical workers are generally imaware of 
the potential power this role gives 
them. Except in administration build- 
ings, office workers are usually 

isolated from one another in small 
offices scattered among lecture halls. 
They work most among students and 
faculty and usually identify with a 
department or office rather than with 
other clericals in similar positions 
throughout the university. 

Interdepartmental and office rival- 
ries grow out of this separation, 
creating a hierarchy of offices. Clerks 
at the office of the Chancellor of UC 
Berkeley, for example, feel privileged 
and look down on other employees. 

A large percentage of campus 
workers are part-timers and tempo- 
raries. UC Berkeley, for instance, 
employs 3500 part-timers, of whom 
52.4% are clerical. The part-timers 
and temps, like their coimterpcirts in 
the private sector, show little interest 
in work issues since they do not 
expect to stay long. 

All of these divisions help to 
maintain passivity among campus 


' 'The Corporation today is the main 
beneficiary of the product that the 
college or university manufactures— 
the trained mind."— Louis Lundborg, 
former chairman. Bank of America. 

A sales manager for Xerox told a 
UC Berkeley jobs workshop last fall. 



"We don't care what your major is. 
The important thing is that you get up 
early, go to classes, and do assigned 
work." Translation: the "form" of 
school education, right from the start, 
is its real content— unquestioning 
submission to authority, fragmenta- 
tion of knowledge into specialized 
compartments, endless tolerance for 
boredom. University training is mere- 
ly the highest level of this process, 
designed primarily for workers in 
occupations where the rhythm of the 
machinery itself does not automat- 
ically set the pace, as it does in the 
auto plant or the keypunch room. 
Even the "lucky" few who make it 
into the professions like law, medi- 
cine, scientific research and top 
management internalize this discip- 
line as the "natural" and appropriate 
way to manage and be managed. You 
may forget the material the day after 
the final, but you remember passivity, 
conformity and competition. 
The process takfes its toll. In a study 
released in April 1979, tests showed 
the average UC student to be de- 
pressed beyond what is professionally 

defined as "clinical depression." 
(Enter a new graduate course: "Man- 
aging Depression.") Yet despite the 
frustration they feel, especially du- 
ring finals, most students are intent 
on conforming. Some wait for a rosy 
post-graduation future. Others can 
see that the world is falling apart but 
tend to retreat into cjrnicism; if they 
are to ride the Titanic, they figure on 
going first class. 

The few students seriously critical 
of society often try to combine career 
ambitions with liberal activism. Hop- 
ing to "make a difference," they go 
into such fields as resource manage- 
ment, urban design, and labor or 
"public interest" law. But few suc- 
ceed in keeping both ideals and career 
intact. Either they wind up as 
low-paid bum-outs in Public Defen- 
ders' offices, charity hospitals or 
"conmiunity organizations," or they 
shed their social conscience along 
with their student denims and join the 
rest in the ruthless scramble to the 

Others who feel discontented, like 
some female and minority students, 


**W/ien he leaves y Pm in charge." 


are less troubled by social conscience. 
Feeling— often with justification— 
that they have already "paid their 
dues" by being members of an 
oppressed group, they come to view 
their own success as a step forward 
for society at large, a proof that, 
despite the prejudice they face, the 
American Dream is still alive. CJonse- 
quently, they tend to reject criticism 
of their conformist role— especially if 
it comes from whites or males — as 

Even for those students who reject 
the normal career expectations, the 
form of the university training leaves 
Uttle time to think about a way of 
living which isn't based on career 
goals and monetary gain. 

The structure of the college class- 
room—big lectures taught by profes- 
sors who are more interested in 
research— affords a minimum of fa- 
culty-student contact. Many teaching 
assistants are too busy being gra- 
duate students to help out under- 
grads. Yet most instructors and 
assistants flood students with work. 
Frequently, the overworked students 
end up taking out their frustrations on 
university employees. They see them 
as part of a vast bureaucracy pitted 
against them, and form hostile im- 
pressions of the workers (lazy, rude, 
etc.). The employees in turn view 
students as mindless zombies who are 

often unable to follow simple instruc- 
tions, and who are insensitive to the 
overworked employees' situation. 

Many part-time employees are 
students, but they often widen the 
gap between processors and pro- 
cessed instead of bridging it. They 
regard their jobs as temporary stops 
on the way to rewarding careers, and 
put up with a lot in order to make 
spending money and earn recommen- 
dations. Furthermore, they look down 
upon other employees, viewing them 
as underachievers. 

At UC's Learning Center, for 
example, students are tutored in a 
variety of subjects. Most of the 
tutors are students themselves. In 
exchange for "experience" and flex- 
ible schedules, they willingly accept 
poor facilities, increased workloads, 
and low pay for what is essentially 
faculty work. 


For most of a decade now, the 
university's hmnanistic facade has 
been flaking away in the corrosive 
atmosphere of financial and social 
crisis. Every quarter at UCB the pace 
gets more frantic, the workload more 
intense, the exams and grading 
harder. The administration strives to 
get by with a smaller and less 
well-rewarded faculty and staff. At 
the same time, it trims liberal-arts 
and social studies "fat" accumulated 
during the boom years of the sixties. 
It squeezes out all but the most 
compulsive and anesthetized students 
before they can graduate. 

If the economic situation worsens— 
and given both world market condi- 
tions and the senile "free market" 
lunacy of the Reagan administration, 
it almost certainly will— students and 
campus workers can expect further 
cuts in real wages, still fewer ser- 
vices, intensified speed-up and in- 
creased emphasis on lucrative corp- 
orate and military sponsored re- 
search. In addition, tuition and other 
fees will probably continue to rise 
while financial aid dries up. 



There are scattered signs of resis- 
tance however. At Boston University, 
a bitter employee strike for union 
recognition in the Spring of 1979 
received faculty support and national 
attention. At about the same time 
strikers at Columbia, primarily cafe- 
teria workers, occupied the computer 
center and clashed with police in a 
wage dispute. In November, 1978 the 
UC Learning Center math tutors 
struck after failing to receive their 
paychecks on time, an action that paid 
off within one day. And at UC's main 
libreiry, in March 1981 employees put 
up a picket line to inform others about 
new speed-up policies. 

These actions merely express a 
growing consciousness among cam- 
pus clericals of what they have in 
common with each other, and a 
willingness to collectively confront 
administrators with their demands. 
Should this consciousness continue to 
grow, and should students be radical- 
ized by the apalling conditions in their 
own lives and the world at large, 
campuses could once again play an 
important role in challenging the 
society that imposes them. 

A rising of students and other youth 
in France in May *68 triggered a 
general strike in which 10 million 
workers participated, many seizing 
their workplaces. In the hot sunmier 
of '77, Itfidy was rocked by aggressive 
mass actions against the govern- 
ment's austerity measures in which 
thousands of students and unem- 
ployed youth participated. Both of 
these rebellions showed how cam- 
puses can be used as centers for 
communication and agitation, and as 
gathering points for large assemblies 
of students and workers. The imiver- 
sities were briefly converted from 
white collar factories into focal points 
for a new kind of social decision- 

In West Germany, students are 
currently joining low-paid apprentices 
and unemployed youth in agressive 
mass actions ag£dnst housing shor- 


tages, nuclear power and militarism. 
In the first week of June 20,000 
students marched through Bonn to 
protest against cutbacks in their 
grants. The movement in West Ger- 
many has begun to question the whole 
organization of society, and to reject 
all hierarchy and fixed "leadership". 
In the society these movements 
foreshadow, education would no 
longer be rigidly separated from 
'work' or 'play' or other areas of 
human activity. Anyone interested 
could pursue any field of study he/she 
chose, and 'teachers' and 'students' 
would frequently trade positions. 
Qualifications would not disappear— 
established levels of proficiency 
would still be required to practice 
surgery, say. But everyone would 
have equal access to information and 
training and no-one would have to 
sacrifice their youth pursuing sterile 
specializations to the exclusion of all 
other experience. For the first time 
the University would live up to its 
image— yet with a crucial difference. 
The campus would be only one center 
of learning in a world become a vast 
continuing school of new powers and 

Mel Testa 




I Because outside the ambulances howl at the dogs 
II Because the typist is forced to eat her own fingers 

III Because I come wrapped in cellophane and stamped with a 
blue number 

IV Because brain-damage leaves a little trail of wildflowers 

V Because we speak to each other only through a wire grille 
and our time is up 

VI Because even the forests are made to tell lies 

VU I want to crawl into the street soaked with burning oil 

VIM I want to smash clocks in my teeth and dig graves with my 

IX I want to spit out the pin of a grenade like a plumstone 

X I want to splatter the maps in the boardroom with bloody 

XI I want my screaming to dissolve cartilage 

XII I want my childrens' bodies to grow thick black fur 


Band- Aids & Escape- Valves: 

ManagingOfficef Malcontents 

Anyone happening into a corporate 
office can usually discern in a matter 
of minutes the power and rank of the 
various employees. From the wor- 
ker's style of dress to the relative 
distance of their desk from the 
window, a hundred and one details 
symbolize and reinforce the office 
pecking order. Among these are the 
size, location and interior decoration 
of offices. Top executives almost 
invariably take the comer offices with 
impressive views. These offices are 
lavishly furnished with desks made of 
high quality wood, tasteful paintings, 
and plush couches and chairs. To 
protect executives from interruptions 
their offices are private and soimd- 

Secretaries and clerical workers 
rarely have private offices. Their 
desks— scattered over vast floor 
areas— are separated by partitions or 
isolated in cubicles. Private phone 
calls are impossible, as is privacy of 

any sort. Brightly colored carpets, 
cheery pictures, muzak and modem 
office equipment are only there to 
soothe stress and boredom and help 
medntain a fast work pace. Through 
the different design standards for 
executive and clerical offices, cor- 
porations do more than save a few 
dollars on cheap furniture. The sur- 
roundings constantly remind clerical 
workers of their rank in the corporate 
hierarchy and the respect and con- 
sideration they owe to their superiors. 
Further distinctions between 
grades of clerical workers are as- 
sumed by workers themselves as they 
follow the unspoken codes of office 
culture. Clothing is an important way 
prestige, and dreams of prestige, are 
expressed. A simple dress equation: 
Power = A Boring and Expensive 
Wardrobe. Conservative suits are de 
rigeur for both men and women 
executives. Administrative assistants, 
executive secretaries and other cleri- 


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cal workers who aspire to manage- 
ment positions are careful to adopt 
the executive look. Women's maga- 
zines and various "dress for success" 
books promote the (false) notion that 
is possible for secretaries to escape 
the typewriter by assuming a * 'pro- 
fessional" appearance and attitude. 
Clerical workers who are not con- 
cerned about promotions are still not 
allowed to come to work dressed as 
casually as they would at home. While 
a written dress code is unusual, the 
unspoken rule is that you must dress 
well to suit the high-powered image of 
Corporate America . 
The myth of office work as a 
glamorous occupation is eroding. 
Younger and better educated em- 
ployees want challenging, meaningful 
work. At the same time, jobs are 


becoming increasingly mechanized 
and routine. Consequently, em- 
ployees concentrate more on their 
Uves outside of work and identify less 
with their jobs. Employees are pro- 
ducing less to cope with their aUen- 
ating jobs. Officials acknowledge that 
clerical employees spend many hours 
a week avoiding work. Absenteeism 
and high turnover rates, also reac- 
tions against the monotony of clerical 
work, further hinder efforts to in- 
crease output. All of this led one 
executive to exclaim: 

*' Short of war, the greatest threat 
ever to confront the U.S. is the 
current crisis of lagging produc- 
tivity." (Management Review, Vol. 
67, No. 12, Dec. '78, p. 4) 
Corporations have begun imple- 
menting programs designed by "en- 


lightened" industrial psychologists to 
counteract worker dissatisfaction and 
improve productivity. Their strategy 
is to encourage workers to identify 
with their jobs and with the interests 
of the company by giving them a 
token say in decision-making. Bank 
of America, one of the largest West 
coast employers of white collar wor- 
kers, is sponsoring new programs to 
foster happy and productive workers. 
Bank tellers will certainly be one 
group of workers targeted for these 
programs. According to internal 
studies, BofA has the most discour- 
teous and inaccurate tellers of all 
major California banks. With their 
new programs, executives hope tell- 
ers will smile and pay attention to 
their work. 

In a January 1980 interview, former 
president of Bank of America (and 
now of the World Bank) Tom Clausen 

said, "Today you question. You're 
more candid. So we've got to have an 
escape valve for you... If we're going 
to do a really great job in meeting the 
needs of our employees we've got to 
know where they're hurting. If we 
know that, we can apply the Band- 
aid in the right place..." 

With "escape" valves like 'Let's 
Talk It over', 'Open Line', and an 
Employee Assistance Program, man- 
agement hopes to create an image of 
fairness and impartiality in its em- 
ployment practices. Nevertheless, it 
is clear that these programs do not 
challenge the corporate hierarchy. 
For example. Employee Assistance 
Officers supposedly serve as objective 
arbiters in resolving complaints 
brought to them by workers. But the 
ultimate power to resolve conflicts, as 
established in the structure of the 
Employee Assistance Program, rests 

Productivity is what we sell. 



with senior executives. When asked 
why there were no clericcd workers on 
the final review boards of the Em- 
ployee Assistance program, Clausen 
responds with benevolent rhetoric: 
"We chose senior people so that the 
review committee would have enough 
muscle to correct something quickly." 
The intended message is that Bank 
executives will be fair judges, regard- 
less of whether solutions to problems 
lessen the profit-margin of the bank 
or threaten management perogatives. 
Bank of America's efforts to im- 
prove worker attitudes and perfor- 
mance on the job are typical of the 
growing corporate interest in socalled 
Quality of Work Life' or 'Himian 
Relations' programs. On the surface, 
they seem to indicate a positive 
change in management's stance to- 
ward workers. It is important to 
remember, though, that corporate 
executive didn't decide to "hu- 
manize" their management policies 

clericals is not so glaring. Liberal 
innovations such as flex-time or job 
sharing may also be tolerated if they 
mean employees will work harder. 
Like the token involvement of cor- 
porations in community affairs, pro- 
grams for humanizing the workplace 
are at best elaborate public relations 

What's more, in these attempts to 
encourage workers' participation in 
decision-making there is no room for 
questioning the Big Picture: the fact 
that office work is an outgrowth of a 
society strangled by money and 
hierarchy. The inherent meaningless- 
ness of "memos to the files", 
billings, invoices, and almost all of 
the information "generated" in the 
contemporary office is simply not in 
question when office workers are 
allowed the "privilege" of deciding 
how to divide up their own work. 
Workers are expected to accept 
unquestioningly that all this paper 

"If we know where our employees are 
hxirting. . . we can apply the Band- Aid in 
the right place." 

because they couldn't sleep from guilt 
about working conditions and unequal 
distribution of wealth and power. 
Their motivations lie rather in the 
need to squeeze more profits out of 
workers in order to compete in a tight 
world market, and to cope with 
employees who refuse to work at their 
highest productivity level. 

Given this consistent pressure to 
lower costs and increase productivity, 
promises for substantive improve- 
ment will never amount to more than 
cosmetic change. Corporations pro- 
mise, but do not produce, increased 
worker participation in management 
decisions. Visible symbols of power 
differentials— office size, furniture, 
dress— may be modified so that status 
difference between executives and 

shuffling and keyboard tickling has a 

It is glaringly apparent to many of 
us that we are being wasted by this 
system as surely as we waste tons of 
paper at work each month. The soft 
cops will not find us eager to help 
them keep it all going round and 
round.Their 'Quality of Work-Life' is 
nothing but a new way to get office 
workers to work harder— if it doesn't 
demonstrably increase productivity 
and decrease absenteeism it can 
easily be discarded. 

If you work in an office, no one has 
to tell you that the human relations 
which occur always take place in spite 
of the office itself and the daily tasks 
on which it depends. 

Helen Highwater 



Half way up the mountain the trail 
disappeared. She saw that she would 
have to measure her footsteps care- 
fully to reach the summit. "Funny," 
she said, watching herself from a 
nearby treetop, "I'm doing pretty 
well considering that I'm afraid of 
heights." After contemplating the 
remaining distance she proceeded up 
the rocks, testing every foothold, for 
she knew it was too late to descend. 
* 'You're doing well, I like your style, ' ' 
she whispered from her tree. ' 'Just be 
careful. ' ' Easy for you to talk, you just 
spend all day sitting on your ass. 
"But you know that if you fall, you'll 
wake up." I'm already awake, and 
then she was at the top. It was only 
after taking a few steps that she 
realized how exhausted she was. She 
rode a wind current from the tree to 
the top of the mountain. "Congratu- 
lations, girl! Now quit looking at the 
ground and listen to the music." 
What music, there's no music here, 
and at that moment the first call of a 
saxophone and trumpet echoed all 
around her. A phrase was repeated 
several times as if to smash an 
invisible barrier, eventually breaking 
into a looping solo, gUding on the 
breeze, the player challenging him- 
self to soar higher, followed by a few 
curlicues and dips, joy in the midst of 
defiance. The sun was beating down 
and the music spun around her. She 
stretched languidly in the heat and let 
each note pour into her ears until it was 
oyer with a flourish, too soon. The 
disc jockey identified the tune, some- 

thing by Charlie Parker. 

Waking was like surfacing after 
staying underwater for too long. She 
heard the clock radio several hundred 
feet above her head. She would have 
to scissor-kick her way up to the 
surface to turn it off. The announcer 
was describing a sale at a water-bed 
store when she broke the stillness of 
the water and, gasping, tried to get 
her bearings. Bed. Pillow. Head- 
board. Blanket. Tom. She stretched 
out her arm to embrace a body and 
found only the sheet and neighboring 
pillow. She opened her eyes as 
Thelonious Monk's piano was zigzag- 
ing through the radio speaker. Tom. 
Tom 's gone, remember? You told him 
to leave last week and he never came 
back. Well, not truly gone. There 
were still the phone calls at 2 a.m., 
the hissed epithets, the click of the 
receiver after her repeated helloes. 
Now, she was waking hating him, but 
at the same time rolling over to assure 
herself that he was there. 

Her head ached the way it always 
did after too little sleep. She lay on 
the bed for a few minutes to hear out 
Monk's message, also summoning up 
energy she didn't really have. Dishes 
were still piled up next to the sink; 
dirty clothes, cigarette ashes, torn 
rolling papers, and smudged glasses 
cluttered the^ studio. 

Karen is a neat, conscientious 
worker who is a real asset to any office 
environment of which she is a part. 
She has all the makings of a 
competent supervisor, and as her 



manager, I believe that she is fully 
equipped to assume the responsibil- 
ities of a lower-level management job. 
After switching off the radio and 
engaging in a half-hearted effort at 
tidying up, she walked to the bath- 
room. She found that the ritual of 
washing and dressing went by more 
easily if she pretended that she was 
Dr. Frankenstein building his mon- 
ster, or a clothes designer decking out 
one of his mannequins. First came 
the shower with that special soap that 
everyone in the office always claimed 
made her smell good. Next, the choice 
of an appropriate outfit, brown tweed 
skirt and matching jacket, with a 
rust-colored blouse. Then the make- 
up, just enough eye shadow to conceal 
the bags under her eyes. Her rites 
completed, she stood in front of the 
mirror and stuck out her tongue. 

Obeying a sudden impulse, she took 
out her lipstick and drew a large red 
mustache on the reflection of her 
upper lip. A perfect touch for an 
upwardly-mobile office manager. 

She went to the stove and put water 
on for coffee, knowing that a solid 
dose of caffeine would at least reduce 
her headache. While waiting for the 
water to boil, she dried her hair and 
combed it out, tugging petulantly at 
the tangles. After a few minutes she 
heard the hissing of the water and 
made a pot of coffee, knowing that this 
would be a four-cup morning. She 
took her first cup over to the kitchen 
table, lit a cigarette, and extracted a 
note pad from her monogrammed 
attache case, a little going-away 
present for you, Karen, in honor of 
your promotion to Personnel, for as 
we all know, rank has its privileges. 








and one of them is a briefcase. 

As she glanced over her neatly 
outlined notes, she tapped the tip of 
her ballpoint pen on the paper. She 
inhaled cigarette smoke deeply and 
smiled as she felt the hazy sensation 
of nicotine diffuse throughout her 
body. But for some reason, this was 
not enough to relax her. She felt a 
need to get up and walk around, even 
up to the nearest comer and back. 
Instead of getting up, she accelerated 
the beat of her pen and puffed 
nervously on her cigarette. She tried 
to concentrate on her notes, but 
raised her head, suddenly realizing 
that she had never looked outside to 
see what kind of day it was. Our 
dedication to the cause know no 
limits, amen. Cigarette in hand, she 
went to the large picture window by 
her bed. With one swift, economical 
gesture that testified to the efficiency 
for which she was held in such high 
regard by her self-styled superiors, 
she pulled the curtains aside and 
opened the window. The clear early 
morning sunlight flooded the room as 
she stuck out her head to breathe the 
air. Afraid of ruining the moment with 
her cigarette, she stubbed the butt 
out on the sill and fUcked it onto the 
pavement two floors below. She need 
not have bothered, because the stale 
exhaust wafted on the breeze from the 
garage down the block. Disappoint- 
ment gave way to astonishment when 
a vaguely herbal scent caressed her 
nostrils. She was intrigued by the 
odor because there were no trees in 
her part of town. Leaning her elbows 
on the sill, she closed her eyes and let 
her thoughts wander. Springtime and 
shadows on deep water, dragonflies 
suspended over water lilies, secret 
messages written on wildflowers... 

"Hey good lookin', how about a 
date, baby? You're sure lookin* fine 
this morning." Somebody in a T-shirt 
with a gold cross around his neck 
waved at her from the street, his eyes 
gleaming in expectation. She allowed 
herself the pleasure of flipping him 
off as she stepped away from the 





Bank of America President 

window. The mysterious herbal smell 
—was it eucalyptus or bay, or 
what?— lingered in her nostrils. You 
can 't even dream for more than a few 
minutes at a time any more. Clearly it 
was time for another cup of coffee, 
maybe even another cigarette, al- 
though she had once entertained 
hopes of quitting, but since Tom, 
though... She ran her fingers through 
her hair, went to the kitchen, and 
poured some more coffee; the cigar- 
ette could wait. It was 7:15 and there 
was no escape; she would have to 
polish the notes for her scheduled 
9:00 presentation. Pursing her lips, 
affecting a prissy voice, she read her 
introductory remarks aloud. "Pro- 
posal for a Manual of Personnel 
Procedures. The unprecedented 
growth of our corporation over the 
past fiscal year has mandated a 


comprehensive restructuring of the 
Personnel Department's priorities. 
My purpose in addressing you today 
is two-fold. First, to demonstrate the 
insufficiency of the current rules and 
regulations for employees, and se- 
condly, to give an overview of our 
projected manual of personnel poli- 
cies, which we hope to complete 
within a two-month time frame. 

Like I always say, if bullshit were 
blacktop I could pave a highway from 
here to Tallahassee. She stared at her 
notes without reading. She remem- 
bered that many years ago, when she 
was in high school, her teachers 
praised her imaginative writing, her 
college English professors repeatedly 
made note of a certain talent, albeit of 
a certain— how to put it?— unortho- 
dox variety. And her various super- 
visors and managers never missed an 
opportunity to praise what they called 
her "writing skills." From aspiring 
genius to salaried craftsman— my life 
in a nutshell. She lit a cigarette and 
extinguished it inmiediately. 

She sat with her head in her hands 
for a long time. Perhaps it was the 
coffee that was making her perspire, 
or perhaps she was coming down with 
something. She toyed with the idea of 
calUng in sick, but could not face 
upper management's accusations that 
she was not equipped to handle 
pressure. Nor could she expect any 

again in front of her notes, reached 
for a cigarette, and knocked the cup 
over onto the table. A brown stedn 
spread with what appeared to be 
hypnotic deliberateness. The return 
of the repressed. Without moving to 
clean up the mess, she upended the 
cup, poured the rest of the coffee onto 
the paper, and stuffed the pad into 
her attache case, scattering small 
droplets of coffee. As if in a trance, 
she walked through the kitchen, 
checked the time, 7:45, went to the 
bathroom, and runmiaged through 
the closet for a pair of spike heels. She 
thought of the ancient Chinese cus- 
tom of binding girl-children's feet to 
enhance their desirability to men. She 
put on the shoes and once again 
looked at herself in the mirror. This 
isn't me. This is me. She bit her lip 
feeling that she would start to cry, but 
restrained herself since she couldn't 
stand the idea of fixing her makeup 
again. The best thing she could do 
was to leave immediately. She clicked 
her way to the kitchen table where her 
upended coffee cup sat pathetically, 
and wiped the stray smudges of coffee 
off her attache case. The phone rang 
but she ignored it, not him again, not 
Tom. The noise made by the front 
door as it shut behind her resounded 
through her head. 


This would be a four-cup morning. 

sympathy from the people who work- 
ed for her. She had been too busy 
learning her job to get to know them 
very well. And after all, they could be 
forgiven for not giving a damn one 
way or the other about the problems 
of the woman who sat in a private 
office and monitored their work. 
There was no alternative but to carry 
the assignment to its bitter end; 
maybe some coffee would help. 
She poured another cup, sat down 

The elevator doors glided open for 
her on the fifteenth floor. It was 8:15 
and she had forty-five minutes to 
wonder what she was going to do, for 
no matter what she was going to do 
could not focus her thoughts on 
anything. She entered the personnel 
department and. ignoring the mut- 
tered hi- and hello-Karen's that rose 
from the desks, walked straight into 
her office with its eastern exposure to 
find someone sitting in her swivel 



It's Great To Be Alive! 

chair. She felt like an intruder. 

"Hi Eloise, hope I'm not interrup- 
ting, but can I sit down? Can I help 
you with anything?" 

The woman sitting behind the desk 
glared at her briefly and with a tone 
far too nice to be genuine, muttered 
about missing forms filled out by 
yesterday's job applicants, and may- 
be Karen had inadvertently stuck 
them in her desk, mistakes can 
happen even to the best of us, and 
certainly she didn't mean to butt in 
like this but she knew Karen wouldn't 
mind, and of course now that Karen 
was here she wouldn't dream of 
getting in her way. Without further 
ado, she inhaled and exhaled noisily 
and left. 

She knew that Eloise had always 
disliked her because she had been 
promoted from another department 

while Eloise, who had been in 
Personnel for ten years, had been 
passed over. But there was something 
else about Eloise— she yearned for 
her own private office, her own secre- 
tary to type her letters and take her 
messages, her own power to dish out 
some of what she had taken for so 
many years. For a moment, she 
considered telling Eloise look, if you 
want that damn office with its goddam 
eastern exposure, here, take it with 
my blessings, and leave me alone. 
Abdication, however, while it may 
have worked for royalty, didn't fit into 
the unwritten code of managerial 
behavior. She imagined the corpor- 
ation's entire^ board of directors 
calling a press conference to an- 
nounce their intent to t£ike a collective 
vow of poverty in a monastery. She 
was beginning to elaborate the sce- 



nario when someone else walked into 
the office and timidly apologized for 

"You weren't interrupting any- 
thing, Julie, I'm just getting ready for 
my 9:00 presentation. What's up?" 
Why do I always have to lie to 
everybody here? 

out of her office to where Julie was 
sitting. "Julie, I'm really sorry, it's 
just been one of those mornings for 
me." She paused awkwardly, realiz- 
ing the clumsiness of what she had 
just said. JuHe whispered without 
turning around, "That's all right, 
Karen, I understand," but the stiff 

If bullshit were blacktop I could pave a 
highway from here to Tallahasee. 

"Was Eloise giving you a bad time 
again, Karen?" 

"Well, you know Eloise. I kind of 
feel sorry for her. She's a good 
worker..." the phrase stuck in her 
throat, but it was what she was 
expected to say, "and I just ignore 
her when she gets that way." 

"Gee, Karen, you're really a fair 
person. Don't worry about Eloise, the 
rest of us think you're the best super- 
visor this department's ever seen. I 
don't know how to say this," Julie 
glanced at the pale green carpet, "but 
I really enjoy working for you." 

Jesus, that 's all I need, some meek 
little twit telling me how much she 
likes me bossing her around.** Great, 
Julie. Fine and dandy, but buttering 
me up won't get you very far. Now 
what about those monthly reports? 
They're due on Friday, and if they 
have as many mistakes as last 
month's, you won't enjoy things 
around here nearly as much. You can 
see for yourself..." although there 
was nothing on the desk to indicate 
that any work was being done there, 
"that I've got a lot to take care of. 
Let's talk some other time, okay?" 

Julie recoiled visibly and tears 
welled up in her eyes. She muttered 
an I'm-sorry-for-bothering-you-Karen 
as she left the office, head down, her 
hands fumbling with the papers she 
was carrying. Brilliant, Karen, a real 
stroke of genius. She was remorseful 
for having jumped down Julie's throat 
for no reason, and hurriedly walked 

posture of her back demonstrated that 
even if she did understand, she was 
not going to forgive for quite some 
time. Having captured the attention 
of everyone in the office, Karen crept 
back to her office and shut the door. 

It was 8:30; half an hour to go. She 
stared at the bright orange landscape 
that was hanging on the left-hand 
wall. She suppressed a violent im- 
pulse to slash it to ribbons, remem- 
bering Julie fighting back her tears. 
Rank has its privileges. Good morn- 
ing, gentlemen, Karen's my name, 
and coordinating personnel's my 
game. Thoughts pounded through her 
head. She reached for a pencil and 
broke it in half. It snapped with a 
crisp, percussive sound releasing a 
faint aroma that recalled to her the 
herbal scent that she had detected 
earlier that morning through the 
smell of exhaust. She closed her eyes 
and concentrated until the walls and 
windows collapsed and she could feel 
the cool, biting air of the mountains. 

Somebody was knocking at the 
door. She folded up the mountains 
and restored the office to its former 
condition. Startled, she glanced 
around and instinctively thrust her 
hand into her attache case, dragged 
out a soggy wad of paper, and stuck it 
in the trashcan under her desk. The 
knock was repeated. "Karen, it's 
Jake. Shall we be off?" 

"Give me five minutes, please, Mr. 
Corcoran, I'll be right there," she 
said in her best sing-song voice. He 



assured her it would be no problem 
and that he could wait. Panic seizing 
her, she searched frantically for a 
cigarette to calm her shaking hands, 
only to find that her last pack was as 
soggy as her now-useless notes. She 
smiled thinly, doesn't it just figure. 
Suddenly, the dream of earher that 
morning, ended by her clock radio 
signalling another working day, came 
back to her with unusual clarity. Once 
again she watched herself clambering 
over the rocks and felt the sharp edge 
of the stone cut into her hands, 
scraping the skin. A saxophone 
sounded in the distance as she scaled 
the sun-drenched peak, singing to her 
in a way that words could not express, 
now's the time. Now she knew what 
she had to do. She focused her 
energies on the closed door of her 
office, as if to shatter it, and, 
clutching her attache case, walked out 
into the work area. 

Ignoring Jake Corcoran 's extended 
hand she went straight over to Julie's 
desk. She put her hand gently on 
Julie's shoulder inunediately feeling 

the tension from the other woman's 
body. Julie wheeled her chair around 
abruptly meeting her eyes. Karen 
tried to say something but faltered 
and bit her lip. JuUe was staring at 
her in astonishment. Karen tightened 
her grip on the younger woman's 
shoulders and stammered, "I hate 
myself for what I did to you, I hate 
this place for what it's doing to me. 
And all I can do about it is take it out 
on all the wrong people, on you. ' ' She 
knew that everyone there was watch- 
ing her; Jake was probably wondering 
if she had gone hysterical on him. A 
half-smile appeared on Julie's face: 
"Do what's best for you, Karen, let 
the right people know about it 

She leaned closer to Julie and 
whispered "Any minute now," point- 
ing to the clock above Julie's type- 
writer. Julie's eyes opened wide: "At 
the meeting, Karen?" Juhe glanced 
nervously at Mr. Corcoran pacing in 
Uttle circles and looking bored, and 
quickly, tentatively, she embraced the 
older woman. "If you get into trouble 

Program Execution 











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